Ever since the Phoenicians and Romans brought their knowledge of vine cultivation to Spanish soils, the country's culture has grown alongside wine production, with wine being a vital part of Spanish identity and Spanish traditions. Each region of Spain has a wine quite distinct from the others, and it is produced by smallholders and families as much as it is by large companies and established wineries. From the relatively mild and lush regions of La Rioja to the arid plateaus that surround Madrid, grapes are grown in abundance for the now booming Spanish wine industry, and new laws and regulations have recently been put in place to keep the country's standards high. By combining traditional practices with modern technology, Spanish wineries are continuing to produce distinctive wines of great character, flavor and aroma, with the focus shifting in recent decades to quality over quantity.
Viognier, an exotic, elusive varietal, originally comes from the Northern Rhone Valley of France, and has captured the fascination of the U.S. wine-drinking public. At its finest, it is full-bodied and nearly golden in color, with a haunting bouquet of peaches, apricots and pears, and a floral quality like no other wine in the world. Many vintners are trying their hand at this varietal, spreading from its American beginnings in Napa Valley and Santa Barbara County to wineries as far away as Virginia. Marsanne and Rousanne, two other important varieties from the Rhone Valley are making waves in the U.S., particularly on the Central Coast of California.